Crafting a labor strategy

Columns - workplace wisdom

October 9, 2020

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It’s fall. Aeration highlights are streaming digital feeds, turf recovery programs are being implemented and 2021 operational planning is in full motion.

Superintendents haven’t even taken a breath and they are again mapping out business strategies against a cloud of uncertainty with downstream effects of COVID-19.

Staffing plans often emphasize numbers and associated costs, but many of those costs remain fluid. Maintaining a flexible and agile approach to your overall budgeting and labor forecasts will demonstrate your ability to think swiftly and strategically.

Obsessing over accurate long-range plans built by historical templates has been disrupted by the pandemic. Alterations to these projections can be compounded by the smallest change. The reality is that quarterly, monthly and weekly outlooks will afford businesses to adjust rapidly.

Labor forecasting isn’t new to the industry and many operations have adopted sophisticated digital tools over the years. This year proved to be the testimonial year where these tools came in extremely handy to adapt maintenance and staffing programs.

Digital tracking can make it easier for managers to access scheduling and reporting, while communicating information from anywhere. These tools are becoming more integrated to take a wide range of data points into scheduling, performance and asset management tracking.

Whether golf course superintendents have been asked to reduce hours due to COVID-19 impacts or provide direction for course maintenance enhancements, digital tools are helping on both sides of the coin. As you build your 2021 labor budget, you need to design and properly communicate your strategy.

Using these technology tools can help bolster human resources and organizational structures, too. Instead of looking at technology as replacing humans, they complement each other.

Other downstream effects of COVID-19 are the continuing complications with unemployment, H2B and other international labor programs such as the J-1 program. The natural turnover within the U.S. workforce, conforming to obsessively controlled long-range budgets in an unstructured labor environment, is also ineffective and unreliable.

Consider the average job tenure for employees ages 25 to 35 is three years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Golf facilities and organizations have been challenged to find suitable replacements in a pre-existing labor shortage. Now may be a good time to adopt new people practices and shift the focus from predicting financial metrics to strategic success.

Building a labor plan should be more than evaluating operational reports and hourly wages. Developing a living, breathing playbook of alternate staffing sources, total rewards compensation and customized development opportunities should be in place.

Have you participated in any outreach programs such as job fairs, mock interviews or youth field trips like First Green? These are all basic strategies employed by local competitors and mega companies. Allocating time and resources to these programs is a necessity to remain vigilant in a competitive recruiting landscape.

Consider starting your workforce outreach with your local workforce development board. As part of the public workforce system, your tax money goes toward these government programs to assist employers by providing training, education and local economic development. Workforce boards support job seekers finding employment while partnering with businesses to recruit. It may take some initial time investment to develop relationships and educate stakeholders, but the payoff is a direct pipeline to eligible job seekers.

Developing a relationship with a local staffing agency can also be a valuable tool to help manage the flow of the season. While you do pay higher wages for their administrative capabilities, consider the savings in recruitment, workers compensation, 401(k), health insurance and other benefits.

Apprenticeships are effective structured systems to attract, develop and retain skilled employees. The Department of Labor says that for every dollar spent on apprentices, you will receive $1.50 in return on investment.

Not persuaded? Significant reimbursement funds upwards of $45,000 per year are available to businesses that implement apprenticeship programs. What better way to demonstrate your credibility and strategic acumen in financial planning than tapping into government funding for staffing?

Tyler Bloom is a workforce and leadership consultant and principal owner of TBloom, LLC. He previously served 15 years in the golf industry, the most recently as golf course superintendent at Sparrows Point Country Club in Baltimore, Maryland.